Rokia and Sara, also right after the 67th Games. Typical Rokia's-childhood warnings of child abuse/neglect and drug use. (BOY I AM CHEERFUL TODAY!)
Sara’d been looking forward to having Rokia at the same school, but when classes start up again after the Games, Rokia’s not there. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything, Rokia misses a lot of school, but Sara’s got a bad feeling something’s up.
Rokia’s already at Sal’s when Sara gets there. She’s sitting on a stool assembling a refurbished fuel pump, bent over, and—
“Why do you have the baby with you?” Sara blurts out, because Rokia’s baby sister is wrapped close against her back.
Rokia jumps. Oops. Then she sets down her tools and turns around slowly. Sara bites back the urge to ask more because Rokia already looks furious, and exhausted. “If I put her down she wakes up,” Rokia says, as though it’s obvious, and maybe it is if you know anything about babies, but Sara doesn’t.
“That why you weren’t at school?” Sara asks.
Rokia nods, swallows. “I’m not going anymore,” she says, looking down. “I gotta start Kadi on formula, that shit’s expensive.”
“Formula? Since when?”
Rokia’s mouth curls in a bitter smile. “Since Mom walked out yesterday and hasn’t been back.”
“Shit,” Sara says, her hands curling into fists. “Your fucking Mom,” she starts, stops when she doesn’t know what to follow it with, what she hasn’t already said a hundred times.
Rokia shrugs the shoulder that’s not got fabric across it for the baby. “Prob’ly better anyway, Mom says she isn’t using but I fucking doubt that.”
Sara sighs, looks out past Rokia at the ceiling so she doesn’t do something stupid like start yelling about how fucked up this damn district is.
The baby starts fussing, quiet sniffles and hiccuping cries. Rokia squeezes her eyes closed, then opens them, reaches to swing the baby around in front of her. “Why are you so difficult?” she asks, hauling Kadi up onto her shoulder and hopping down, bouncing the kid and walking towards Sara, rolling her eyes. “I don’t know what the fuck you want,” she says, sing-song.
As she passes Sara she says, “Sal wants us to get all the fuel pumps changed out, can you pull the next one?”
“Sure,” Sara answers, familiar frustration curling in her chest.
“I’ll be back,” Rokia says, walks toward the office.
Sara finds her tools and gets to work.